At 21, Antonio London exudes the confidence of a seasoned businessman. More than that, his aptitude and enterprise extends way beyond managing a successful business. The young Computer Science undergraduate seeks to be a part of the growth of Guyana’s information technology sector as a facet of its broader contribution to the country’s development.
A past pupil of Tutorial High School, London said he received his first computer at the age of 12. His current pursuit of a Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of Phoenix through distance learning is the partial fulfillment of a passion for information technology.
Six months ago, London established a small local website developing company named Ivanson’s Web Site Consulting in Thomas Street, Georgetown. His primary goal, he said, is “to help modernize the local technology sector” in order to make services more accessible.
Two weekends ago, Ivanson’s made its coming out appearance at GuyExpo 2011, an experience which London said, allowed the company to become “acclimatized” to the local business community. As a business venture Ivanson’s had no great expectations of GuyExpo. “What we tried to do was to show business houses how, by embracing information technology, their products and services can become spread all over the world,” London said.
London said Guyana has not done nearly enough to promote itself and what it has to offer to the rest of the international community. “Whether we want to believe it or not we are still decades behind the international community. We still need to develop an appreciation of the importance of information technology and the role it can play in marketing our country. Outside of Guyana information on business and on our tourism industry is still relatively limited,” London said.
Nor does he believe that the local business community has paid anywhere near sufficient attention to the role websites can play in broadening client bases. “The truth is that many of our websites are well below what one would consider to be international standard. They lack proper functionality and very often they are not friendly on viewers’ eyes. Some of them cannot be loaded onto mobile devices and on the whole they sometimes serve as a deterrent rather than an incentive.”
London is wary about the government’s much vaunted One Lap Top Per Family (OLPF) project. “Its value, of course, is that it puts Guyanese online. The real question has to do with whether or not it puts Guyana online,” London said.
The key to the development of a modern and functional information technology sector in Guyana, London said, is legislation. “The key here is to create legislation that, among other things, seeks to protect intellectual property. Web developers, for example, have no security. They remain vulnerable to intellectual poaching and as long as that remains the case it will retard the growth of the industry.”
There are other issues that have a bearing on the growth of the local information technology sector that require strong legislation, he said. “We need to be dealing with issues like programmes designed to tackle the major issues of information technology in Guyana.
The affordability of broadband is one such issue; and there is also the need to do more to help businessmen and Guyanese as a whole embrace the technology. For example, sometimes it seems that people in Guyana have a stigma against e-commerce.” That, he said, is perhaps understandable. “The local e-commerce facility is not entirely safe. It lacks integrity and is not supported by any legislation.”
IT legislation, London said, must also allow for the establishment of a Ministry of Technology in Guyana. “Apart from developing policy we need an institution that will ensure the effective implementation of that policy.”
Up until now Ivanson’s ‘bread and butter’ pursuits have focused on the external rather than the local market. It has worked in collaboration with external web development agencies including Drupal and Aquia of the United States on several important projects. London said Ivanson’s parent company, Venus Global Communications, has been involved in IT projects associated with the Barack Obama elections campaign and with the creation of e-commerce sites for businesses in the United States.
Antonio’s brother, Emanuel, a graduate of De Paul and Howard universities, is President and Chief Executive Officer of Venus Global Communications Inc.
Part of Ivanson’s current focus is on building its own capacity. London said the company is built around young, enterprising Guyanese who possess an aptitude and a flair for the Information Technology industry. “What we have discovered is that some of the talented and naturally gifted people in the local IT field are not necessarily people with strong academic backgrounds. Computer science is not necessarily about academia,” he said.
London said GuyExpo 2011 provided “useful exposure” for Ivanson’s. “We have been asked by a company to develop its point of sales system and about 23 other companies have asked us to consult with them. Apart from that we received some requests for IT development-related proposals.”